Now that U.S. Army brass have come out in favor of increasing the size of the force, there is all sorts of chatter about where the recruits are going to come from. Well, they’re coming from the same place they’ve always come from. Today, the military has 2.2 million active duty and reserve troops, out of a population of 300 million. That means, out of every million Americans, 7,334 of them are military. But at the end of the Cold War, fifteen years ago, the military had 3.7 million troops, out of a population of 250 million. That was 14,800 military personnel for every million Americans. Then, and now, the military depended on volunteers. The “shortage of volunteers” the media talks about, does not exist. In the last fifteen years, the military kept raising its standards (mostly in terms of education, and scores on military aptitude exams) in order to exclude recruits it believed would be less successful as soldiers. Lower the standards back to 1991 levels, and you have all the troops you need.

But the military, particularly the army, likes the higher standards. This is something that is little discussed, and largely unknown outside the army itself, but those stratospheric recruiting standards have produced the most professional and capable military in American history.

Quality vs. quantity. One solution is to recruit foreigners, something that the U.S. military has done throughout its history.